When people set out to lose weight, they decide whether to go at it alone or recruit help. If they take the “help” route, they typically choose between individual and group coaching, and usually base their decision on comfort and preference. But what if regardless of preference, one of these methods proves far more effective than the others? Might that dissuade them to switch trajectories from their initial inclination to the superior route, leaving them healthier and happier in the long-run? The studies are in, and we’d love for you to share the good news with your clients.
Self-help rarely works. Many people attempt weight loss on their own, an army of one fighting a long and uphill battle. Sadly but unsurprisingly, their approach is destined for failure. Embracing the concept of “strength in numbers” would surely save them plenty of time and effort. One study found that group nutrition coaching participants lost over three times more weight than those in the self-help group. After the intervention concluded, the self-help group regained all of the weight they had lost, but the group coaching participants kept off more than the six of the ten pounds they initially shed.
Group coaching trumps 1-on-1 nutrition coaching. Even among those who express a preference for individual counseling, adult group therapy yields greater weight loss. The same holds true for children, as obese youths in group therapy don’t benefit from additional 1-on-1 coaching. An effective stand-alone therapy, “group treatment alone is a more cost-effective approach to treating pediatric obesity than a mixed group plus individual format.”
To sum up so far, going at it alone seems futile and group coaching trumps 1-on-1 coaching by proving more effective and financially viable. So what group should our clients work with? Who will fight by their side? Good news: They have lots of options.
Tackle weight loss with friends and/or family. Participants enrolled in a four-month weight loss program either alone or with three friends or family members. While only one-quarter of those who went at it alone maintained their weight loss six months after coaching concluded, two-thirds of the friends and family group achieved the same success.
Tackle weight loss with your significant other. A meta-analysis of twelve studies found that couples weight loss coaching yields better results than individual coaching.
Tackle weight loss with strangers. Another study found that group nutrition coaching participants lost a whopping 19% of their body weight in two years. Just as impressive, they had regained a mere 2% back five years later.
The common thread? Whether in person or online, connecting to a weight loss community makes us much more likely to lose weight. And the more we connect, the better. A study published earlier this year examined over 22,000 members of an online weight-management community. The authors found that people engaged in self-monitoring and social networking lost the most weight. They note, “Remarkably, greater embeddedness in the network was the variable with the highest statistical significance in our model for weight loss.” Remarkable indeed, the most socially embedded members lost more than twice the weight of unconnected folk going at it alone (8.3% vs 4.1% of initial body weight).
Bottom line: Social support proves essential to weight loss and eventual maintenance. Connecting with others, whether in person or online, transforms frustrating and failing attempts into fruitful and inspiring success stories.
MealLogger enables health professionals to offer web- and app-based group nutrition coaching (as well as 1-on-1 coaching). Our platform supports professionals as they simultaneously guide multiple clients through weight loss, build camaraderie and support within groups, and improve the efficiency and quality of services offered.